Hong Kong’s security chief has opposed watering down a proposed extradition agreement with mainland China despite escalating pressure from the city’s business heavyweights and even a government adviser. The latest businesspeople to join the chorus of criticism were former No 2 government official Henry Tang Ying-yen, the incoming chairman of the Trade Development Council Peter Lam Kin-ngok and Executive Council member Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung. The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) warned last week that the proposal extradition agreement could damage the city’s reputation as a “secure haven for international business”. But Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu on Thursday again dismissed the suggestion that 15 white-collar crimes be exempted from the 46 offences covered by the extradition proposal, as had earlier been demanded by the city’s major pro-business parties, the Liberal Party and the Business and Professionals Alliance (BPA). Tang, now a standing committee member of the mainland’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said the businessmen’s worries were understandable. “It is a genuine concern that the central government should not simply ignore them. They should be addressed,” he said. “I have every confidence that, while the community is supportive of plugging the loopholes of Hong Kong being a shelter for fugitives … only crimes serious and heinous enough should be extraditable.” Tang said the government had discussed arrangements for the transfer of fugitives with mainland authorities when he was in office, but refused to reveal more on the difficulties reaching a consensus for the agreement. Hong Kong’s Security Bureau has been embroiled in controversy since proposing a legal amendment last month that would allow the reciprocal transfer of fugitives on a case-by-case basis to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong lacks an extradition agreement, including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau. Pro-democracy group in Taiwan to discuss extradition proposal The officials claimed the amendment was aimed at sealing off loopholes exposed by a homicide case last year in which Taiwanese authorities were unable to extradite a Hongkonger accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend in Taipei. Peter Lam, also a standing committee member of the CPPCC and the council chairman of the BPA, admitted the proposal would affect the city’s business environment and urged the administration to review it. It would be a good thing if authorities could reach an extradition agreement with Taiwan first, he said, adding his party had met Beijing officials and expressed their concerns. Fellow alliance member Jeffrey Lam, who advises Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in the Executive Council, also demanded more clarification from the government. “We hope there can be a clear difference made between administrative blunders and serious criminal offences,” he said. But Maria Tam Wai-chu, vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee, dismissed the business sector’s concerns as she said there were prevailing international standards regarding extradition. The Security Bureau also said that any white collar crimes would require either fraudulent or criminal intent to constitute an offence. Hongkongers’ freedoms threatened with proposed extradition agreement “If someone was only acting carelessly or mistakenly but did not commit a criminal offence in Hong Kong, they would certainly not be transferred [to another jurisdiction],” a spokeswoman for the bureau said on Thursday. She added that the government reserved the right not to grant a request to extradite an alleged fugitive. On Thursday, security chief Lee shot down the suggestions of exempting economic crimes during a closed-door meeting with three pro-democracy lawmakers from the Professionals Guild. Accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung said: “They said the list [of 46 types of crimes] are serious offences recognised across the globe – that is the international standard – and they can’t single out certain offences for exemption from it. They said they will consider [the views], but they are against it at the moment.” Information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok said the officials questioned why the pan-democrats were particularly anxious about mainland China. Fugitives should only be extradited to Taiwan, not mainland China “Hongkongers and Taiwanese have much closer interactions with mainland China than Spain [which has an extradition treaty with China] does,” he said, adding they were also concerned about the huge differences between the Hong Kong and mainland judicial systems. Officials were also pressed on whether the Taiwan government was aware of Hong Kong’s proposal. Mok quoted Lee as saying there was discussion with Taiwanese law enforcement and local police. Meanwhile in Taiwan, the youth-led New Power Party said the proposal was worrying as it could threaten the safety of Taiwanese people visiting Hong Kong, adding that it would move a motion in the Legislative Yuan to debate the issue. The party made the announcement after meeting four pro-democracy lawmakers and activists from Hong Kong, who were on a two-day visit to the self-ruled island to discuss the issue. AmCham said on Thursday that it looked forward to continuing a dialogue with the government on the proposal, about which they had concerns for its potential impact on the city as an international business centre. Kimmy Chung is reporting from Beijing. Additional reporting by Tony Cheung in Beijing.